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'Locavores' want power to shape food policy

By Andrea Weigl - Staff Writer

Article from The News & Observer

"Eat local" has been a grass-roots catchphrase for a while, spawning the word locavore, the explosion of farmers markets, even restaurant menus naming the farm that raised the chicken on your dinner plate.

Now this grass-roots movement is seeking a permanent voice in state government. Legislation in both the state House and Senate proposes the creation of a 24-person Sustainable Local Food Policy Council.

A few definitions may be in order. "Local" means food grown within North Carolina. "Sustainable food" is a product of farming that enhances the environment, sustains the economic viability of the farm and improves the quality of life for both farmer and society.

The Senate bill passed earlier this month, and the House will now take up that version.

The legislation was proposed after a series of regional meetings during the past year to discuss how to create and support food economies across the state. The regional meetings culminated in a two-day statewide summit in Raleigh on May 11 and 12 sponsored by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Nancy Creamer, director of CEFS, says those meetings were used to spark discussion, collect information and generate ideas about supporting local sustainable farmers. But now, Creamer says, a food policy council is needed to put those ideas into action.

"Now the work has to happen to get things done," Creamer says.

The Senate bill directs the food policy council to study:

What foods are served in public schools, especially to students receiving breakfast and free and reduced price lunches, and increasing the amounts of local sustainable foods served to those students.

The possibility of making local sustainable food available to people who receive public assistance and the possibility of using food stamps at farmers markets.

Ways to encourage community and backyard gardening.

The effect of sustainable local food production on the state's economy.

How to overcome regulatory and policy barriers for farmers and entrepreneurs who produce local sustainable food.

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